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Actor who played Harry Potter's Uncle Vernon, Richard Griffiths dies

By Greg Goodsell
March 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

He was most popularly known as everyone's least favorite "Muggle" - actor Richard Griffiths played boy wizard Harry Potter's most unsympathetic Uncle Vernon in the celebrated film series. To film fanatics, Griffiths will be forever remembered as the rotund, unctuous Uncle Monty in the classic British comedy "Withnail and I." Griffiths has passed away following heart surgery at the age of 65.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - Agent Simon Beresford announced Griffiths passed away following surgery in central England. He's being remembered as "a remarkable man and one of our greatest and best-loved actors."

Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter in the popular franchise, said in a statement that "I was proud to say I knew him." Radcliffe also worked alongside Griffiths in a 2007 London production of "Equus."

"Richard was by my side during two of the most important moments of my career," Radcliffe added. "In August 2000, before official production had even begun on Potter, we filmed a shot outside the Dursleys', which was my first ever shot as Harry. I was nervous and he made me feel at ease.

"Seven years later, we embarked on Equus together. It was my first time doing a play but, terrified as I was, his encouragement, tutelage and humor made it a joy. In fact, any room he walked into was made twice as funny and twice as clever just by his presence."

Arguably Griffiths most memorable role was as Uncle Monty in the 1987 cult classic "Withnail and I." As two young aspiring actors take shelter in his isolated, rural home after leaving college, Griffiths as the effeminate, pompous Monty dispenses bits of advice gleaned from his years as an amateur botanist.

"I think the carrot infinitely more fascinating than the geranium. The carrot has mystery. Flowers are essentially tarts. Prostitutes for the bees. There is a certain je ne sais quoi - oh, so very special ." Griffiths says in an extravagant, plumy accent. 

Monty is also quick to dampen his two young tenants' theatrical ambitions. "It is the most shattering experience of a young man's life when one morning he awakes and quite reasonably says to himself, 'I will never play the Dane.'"
 
A large man with an even larger stage presence, Griffiths essayed the role of charismatic teacher Hector at the emotional heart of Alan Bennett's "The History Boys." It was a part he took to Broadway, winning a Tony Award, and repeated for the film adaptation.

Griffiths was also renowned for shaming audience members whose cell phones rang during plays by stopping the performance and ordering the offender to leave.

Griffiths' last major stage role was in a West End production of Neil Simon's comedy "The Sunshine Boys" last year opposite Danny DeVito.

He is survived by his wife, Heather Gibson.

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